Jan 06


ASIAKWA Man Dies In Galamsey Pit


There is a funny song, made famous by Wulomei (an Accra-based band that used to entertain Ghanaians with witty songs a few decades ago) whose opening lyrics go like this:

Gyae Nsa Nom
Na Kuru Wodan.
Daakye ebebu akum onipa ne ba!

(Quit drinking and mend your [broken] house
Otherwise it will collapse one day and kill
The child of a human being!)

It is also this band that encapsulated the austere economic programme Ghana was facing some years back, by popularising the song, Walantu Walansa! (The message carried by this song was that “things are so difficult nowadays that instead of one labourer, on a road-works team, being asked to dig, whilst another was given the task of using a wheel-borrow to collect the earth that his work-mate had dug up, now, just one person was being forced to do both jobs!)

Such gems of folk wisdom can tell us a lot more about what is going on in our society than huge tomes crammed with socio-economic data. I remembered Wulomei’s advice to “quit drinking and mend your broken house” because it warns against the sort of neglect which Ghanaians’ unconcerned attitude to galamsey signifies. I have been forced, by this general lack of concern in Ghana about galamsey, to devote a great many of my columns to the menace, even though other issues have been on my mind.

And now, I know that I have been right to seem obsessed by the galamsey problem. For on 5 January 2015, the Daily Guide carried this news item:

“A 24-year-old senior high school graduate allegedly fell into a galamsey pit at Asiakwa, in the east Akim Munici- pality of the eastern region last Thursday [Ne Year’s Day!] leading to his death. The body of the deceased
is currently deposited at the Kyebi Government Hospital awaiting [an] autopsy, while the police are investigating the circumstances that led to the incident. Confirming the tragedy to the DAILY GUIDE, the Asiakwa-Tafo electoral area assembly man, Mr Samuel Amoako, stated that the deceased went to [the] farm with his father on that fateful day to harvest cocoa and that they came back home together.

“According to the assembly man, the young man told his father that he wanted to go and fetch water from a river at the outskirts of the town, which was near a galamsey pit, to come and bath. According to Mr. Amoako, the deceased
was not aware that there was an uncovered illegal mining [galamsey] pit nearby, which had been taken over by
weeds; and so, as he was walking towards the river, he accidentally fell into it (the pit).

“[Mr Amoako] informed this paper that a farmer who was returning from his farm heard a strange noise inside the pit and when he got near it he saw the victim battling [in it] for life. [Mr Amoako] added that the farmer quickly ran to the town and raised an alarm, which drew scores of people, including police personnel, to the area. However, before the student could be reached, he had passed [away]. The body was retrieved and sent to the Kyebi Government Hospital for an autopsy.

“When contacted, Inspector Manu of the Asiakwa Police Station confirmed the tragedy, adding that his outfit had started investigating the matter.” UNQUOTE

Now, careful readers of this column will be right in assuming that this news item would have affected me deeply. This is because Asiakwa, the scene of the accident, is my home town! I have been so angered by the way galamsey operators have destroyed the main river there, Supong, that I have been writing almost obsessively about the galamsey issue. But true to the saying that “if [the sore] is on another fellow’s body, it might as well be on a tree”, no-one has taken the slightest notice of what I have been saying. I even challenged the Member of Parliament for the constituency to raise the matter in Parliament. He did not. I urged the Environmental Protection Agency to send a team to the town to see whether the river could be dredged back to life. Nothing happened.

When the President of Ghana said at Kyebi that the people who were engaged in galamsey were doing it “in order to earn a living”, I asked him politely why he had a police force, since the thieves in our society were also stealing “”in order to earn a living”. I even suggested that if the President, having solemnly sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of Ghana, was, in saying that, now appearing to be condoning illegal gold mining, then he was laying himself open to impeachment proceedings in Parliament. That suggestion was never taken up by any MP, and has remained a damp squib to this day.

I then turned my attention to the people of Asiakwa themselves. No-one had the right to destroy the water sources of anyone else for any reason whatsoever, I wrote. The people should therefore resurrect the asafo or kyirem (mass movement) they had inherited from their ancestors, through which they all acted in unison to prevent any harm coming to the society as a whole. The strong>asafo is the body that can force the elders of the town to initiate destoolment charges against the chief, if he was deemed not to be acting in the interests of his own people; I told them. The people did nothing, as far as I can tell.

Out of sheer desperation, I wrote a heart-rending piece entitled “And Nobody Cares” (Daily Guide 20 December 2014) in which I recounted how I had attempted to get a lady reporter from the paper stationed at the Eastern Region headquarters, Koforidua, to give publicity to the destruction of River Supong. This is how I described the outcome of my efforts:

“I tried to get a report done on it. I arranged for a lady reporter to go and see the situation for herself and write on it. I then had to leave town. You won’t believe this: the people from my town whom I had trusted to show her round, told her that “tomorrow” would be a more suitable day and then, when “tomorrow” came, they changed the story again. So she too lost interest!…  Not that even if she had written the story, anything would necessarily have come of it. But the fact that they didn’t even try to help get the story written in the first place: that really hurts. I am devastated… The government doesn’t care! And the people don’t seem to care… I don’t know what to do! Maybe we have to sue the government? For it collects direct and indirect taxes to safeguard the public welfare, right? If it doesn’t use the taxes to ensure the public welfare – in this case, repair the damage done to the rivers by the galamsey operators so that posterity can have water to drink –  it ought to be sued to do its duty, mustn’t it?

But would a Supreme Court that refused to differentiate between the signature of an electoral officer and that of a polling agent actually order the government to do its duty to the public?… It makes me feel as if we are finished! As in cooked, eaten and excreted….! Excreted and left in the sun to dry, waiting to be collected by dung-beetles – to be eaten again!”

The children of the children of the current generation of Ghanaians will be dying like flies, afflicted with thirst, drought-created famine and other dire consequences brought about by global warming if the current generation does not put on its thinking cap IMMEDIATELY and revive the rivers and the underground water-sources we are allowing to be destroyed by galamsey.

I mean – really – are we so stupid we can’t see this happening?


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